Archive for the ‘Publications’ Category

Spotlight #27 – Genes the means to screen future forest scene

Genes the means to screen future forest scene

PDF for download

Women caring for tree seedlings in a nursery in Niger. Credit: Bioversity International/L. Snook

Women caring for tree seedlings in a nursery in Niger. Credit: Bioversity International/L. Snook

Forest ecosystem restoration is a critical component in tackling climate change, combatting biodiversity loss and desertification, and for providing products and services that support livelihoods at a local level.

For those reasons, restoring and rehabilitating forests and degraded lands will be one of the major environmental challenges of this century.

But, as a recent thematic study coordinated by Bioversity International, a IUFRO Member Organization, for the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations – Genetic Considerations in Ecosystem Restoration Using Native Tree Species – notes, there is more to forest restoration than simply planting trees.

It requires careful, knowledge-based planning that includes consideration of genetic aspects – among them, suitability of germplasm to the site, quality/quantity of the genetic pool used, and regeneration potential.

The study highlights the breadth and depth of genetic aspects that need to be considered in ecosystem restoration using native tree species. And it offers recommendations for researchers, policy makers and restoration practitioners to better address deficiencies that could compromise the success of some restoration efforts.

It brings together the existing knowledge on genetic issues in ecosystem restoration, identifying knowledge gaps and areas needing further research and development efforts.

The study’s editors – nine of them, from six different organizations – point out that the adoption of the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity for 2011-2020 calls for 15% of all degraded lands to be restored by 2020. That’s 150 million ha of degraded land to be restored.

That makes it extremely important that such massive restoration initiatives be carried out using the best available information to increase the probability of success and cost-effectiveness.

The impact of planting genetic materials that are mismatched to the site conditions may become obvious within a year or so, but the negative effects of restoration based on insufficient diversity will be seen only after many years, they add.

Underlining the importance of planning, they note numerous past restoration projects that – undertaken without due diligence – never achieved their expected goals. spotlight27-biodiversity-publication-cover

Among the study’s recommendations:

For research:
— Evaluate the impact of different restoration methods on the genetic diversity of restored tree populations.
— Develop protocols and practical indicators to monitor and evaluate the genetic diversity of tree populations in restoration efforts as an indicator of the viability and resilience of ecosystems.

For practitioners:
— Give priority to native tree species in restoration projects.
— Given the uncertainty of future climate, promote resilience by maximizing species and genetic diversity from sources that are similar to the site conditions, encouraging gene flow and generational turnover and facilitating species migration to allow for natural selection.

For policy-makers:
— Put in place supportive regulatory frameworks that guide the production and supply of propagation material of native tree species and the use of adequately diverse material of appropriate origin in restoration efforts.
— Broaden education and training curricula to promote understanding of the importance of using native species and genetically diverse and appropriate propagation material, as well as appropriate approaches in restoration projects.

The thematic study was coordinated by Bioversity International as an input to the FAO report on The State of the World’s Forest Genetic Resources and is an important step in the implementation of the FAO Global Plan of Action for the Conservation, Sustainable Use and Development of Forest Genetic Resources.

The full study can be found through Bioversity: or through the FAO:


Media Contact Gerda Wolfrum: +43 1 877 0151 17 or wolfrum(at)


Related Links
Bioversity International:
Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO):
IUFRO Spotlights main page,


Spotlight #25 – Mixed species growth predictions made easy – well, easier

Mixed species growth predictions made easy – well, easier


PDF for download

Measuring transpiration by collecting sap flow data from a Eucalyptus globulus tree that is growing in a mixed species plantation with Acacia mearnsii. This will be used to understand the processes driving species interactions in these mixtures. (Photo by David Forrester; Cann River, Australia)

Measuring transpiration by collecting sap flow data from a Eucalyptus globulus tree that is growing in a mixed species plantation with Acacia mearnsii. This will be used to understand the processes driving species interactions in these mixtures. (Photo by David Forrester; Cann River, Australia)

A recent study indicates why it is difficult to predict how mixed-species forests or plantations will grow, but makes those predictions easier by discussing the processes that drive changes over space and time in species interactions.

Since tree species mixtures are regarded as one of the most important approaches to reduce the risks to forests posed by global change, the study’s conclusions will be of interest to forest managers or policy makers using mixed-species forests or plantations.

Entitled The spatial and temporal dynamics of species interactions in mixed-species: From pattern to process, the study is by Dr. David Forrester, Chair of Silviculture, Faculty of Environment and Natural Resources, Freiburg University.

He says many studies have examined how species interactions influence the growth of mixtures, but few have examined how spatial and temporal differences in resource availability or climatic conditions can influence these interactions.

This study gives a conceptual model that fits all the studies found in the literature – something that had not been done previously, Dr. Forrester says.

The reason it had not been done before, he notes, is because no explanation was given for why positive interactions between tree species might increase as resource availability or climatic conditions improve.

There has been a perception that positive interactions will increase in importance as growing conditions become harsher, often indicated by site quality. While often true, this can be a misconception, he says, partly due to a large amount of literature from environments that are too harsh to support forests and where stand densities are likely to be much lower.

Secondly, he adds, this review notes that site quality is often not a good predictor of species interactions because it does not necessarily correlate well with the actual availability of water or of a given nutrient and it is these resources that influence species interactions, not site quality per se. However, many studies that examine spatial dynamics of species interactions do actually use site quality.

The study also points out important methodological contrasts between studies examining facilitation between tree species in forests or plantations compared with studies done in less productive ecosystems with lower densities and where facilitation is among herbs, grasses and shrubs rather than different tree species, he adds. Those studies sometimes confound stand density with species composition, which is an important distinction in productive systems like forests.

The take-home messages for managers and policy makers, says Dr. Forrester, are:

  • that mixed species forests or plantations could be useful ways to improve productivity levels and product diversity in comparison to monocultures;
  • that different types of mixtures will be good where resource availability is low compared with sites where availability is high; and
  • that matching the types of species interactions with the existing growth limiting factors is critical.

Dr. Forrester’s review shows the different spatial and temporal patterns that have been observed and provides explanations about the processes involved and is now being used as a framework to test process-based growth models that could be used as a tool by foresters and policy makers.

The full study can be found at:


Media Contact

Gerda Wolfrum: +43 1 877 0151 17 or wolfrum(at)


Related Links

IUFRO Spotlights main page,

Spotlight #23 – Eucalyptus genome successfully sequenced

Eucalyptus genome successfully sequenced

PDF for download

Professor Zander Myburg of the University of Pretoria, South Africa, in front of Eucalypt trees. Photo by Photowise.

Professor Zander Myburg of the University of Pretoria, South Africa, in front of Eucalypt trees. Photo by Photowise.

With a result that offers major potential for the forest industry, an international team of researchers has successfully sequenced and analyzed the genome of Eucalyptus grandis.

“Now that we understand which genes determine specific characteristics in these trees, we will be able to breed trees that grow faster, have higher quality wood and use water and land more efficiently,” said the lead investigator on the project, Prof. Zander Myburg of the University of Pretoria, South Africa.

“This will also allow us to breed trees better able to cope with future climate change scenarios. In the future, we may even be able to develop and manage eucalyptus plantations as ‘bio-factories’ to produce specific kinds of sought-after materials and chemicals.”

Current uses for Eucalyptus, in addition to timber, pulp and paper, include eucalyptus oil used for cleaning and as an industrial solvent, as an antiseptic, for deodorizing, and in cough drops, toothpaste and decongestants. It is also an active ingredient in some commercial mosquito repellents. Increasingly Eucalyptus is being looked at for chemical cellulose, used in a wide variety of industrial products from textiles to pharmaceuticals.

Native to Australia, these trees have been introduced worldwide, mainly in tropical and sub-tropical countries – though they can be found along North America’s Pacific coast as far north as British Columbia.

Eucalyptus species and hybrids make up the most widely planted hardwood crop globally (over 20 million ha). Eucalypt plantations are grown in over 90 countries as short rotation (6-9 years) wood fibre crops. Their high productivity means there is less reliance and pressure on natural forests, especially in developing countries, where most eucalyptus plantations are grown, Prof. Myburg added.

This is only the second hardwood tree genome (Populus was the first) to be sequenced.

Prof. Myburg said being able to compare it to other trees such as Populus, willow, spruce and pine will allow us to study the unique biology of these large, long-lived plants that are keystone species for many of the earth’s ecosystems.

“Once we are able to boost the growth and wood properties of Eucalyptus, the same techniques can be applied to other woody plants with potential as biomass feedstock species for the post-petroleum economy,” he said.

What this achievement underlines is “that forest tree research has entered the post-genomics age,” Prof. Myburg added. “We can look toward technology development … (to come up with) solutions for threats like climate change, pests and diseases, and breed trees with enhanced growth and wood properties for a sustainable forest products industry.”

Already many international research teams are using the genome sequence as a reference for gene function studies and as a resource for molecular breeding of eucalyptus trees for enhanced growth, wood formation, disease resistance and abiotic responses to drought, cold and salinity, among other things.

The project was funded by the U.S Department of Energy, Joint Genome Institute (DOE-JGI). An international team of 80 researchers at more than 30 institutions (several of which are IUFRO member organizations) in 18 countries participated in the project. It took them five years to sequence and analyze the 640-million base pair genome.

The findings are available online:, and also in the June 19 edition of the journal Nature.


Media Contact

Gerda Wolfrum: +43 1 877 0151 17 or wolfrum(at)


Related Links

The genome of Eucalyptus grandis:

IUFRO Working Party 2.08.03 – Improvement and culture of eucalypts:

IUFRO Working Party 5.06.03 – Utilization of planted eucalypts:

IUFRO Spotlights main page,

Understanding Relationships between Biodiversity, Carbon, Forests and People: The Key to Achieving REDD+ Objectives

New GFEP assessment report published as IUFRO World Series 31
Edited by: John A. Parrotta, Christoph Wildburger, Stephanie Mansourian

Forests harbour a major proportion of the world’s terrestrial biodiversity and provide a wide range of vitally important ecosystem services – including carbon sequestration and storage. Deforestation and forest degradation continue to erode biodiversity and the capacity of forest ecosystems to help mitigate climate change and provide the goods and services that sustain livelihoods and human well-being locally, and globally. Reducing greenhouse gas emissions from deforestation and forest degradation, and enhancing forest carbon stocks in developing countries (REDD+) is a proposed mechanism which has the potential to realise its primary objective – climate change mitigation – with variable impacts, positive and negative, on biodiversity, forests and people. REDD+ is complex, its proposed activities and implementation mechanisms not yet clearly defined, and therefore surrounded by uncertainty. Because of its high relevance to climate change mitigation, the conservation and sustainable use of forests and their biological diversity, the Expert Panel on Biodiversity, Forest Management and REDD+ was established by the Collaborative Partnership on Forests in December 2011 to carry out this assessment.

The Expert Panel included 24 scientists and other experts from a variety of biophysical and social science disciplines relevant to the topics covered in this assessment report. An additional 18 contributing authors added their expertise to the assessment. Each chapter was prepared by a team of Lead Authors and Contributing Authors led by one or more Coordinating Lead Authors. A full draft of the report and its individual chapters was peer-reviewed prior to its completion. The results of this voluntary collaboration between January and October 2012 are presented in the six inter-related chapters comprising this book.

This assessment report evaluates the implications of forest and land management interventions envisaged under REDD+ in a multidimensional and integrated fashion. It summarises the most current scientific literature that sheds light on the relationships between forest biodiversity and carbon (and other ecosystem services), how these complex relationships may be affected by management activities implemented to achieve REDD+ objectives, the potential synergies and tradeoffs between and among environmental and socio-economic objectives, and their relationship to governance issues. Based on the main findings of the assessment (summarised in Chapter 6), a policy brief entitled ‘REDD+, Biodiversity and People: Opportunities and Risks’ has been prepared especially for policy- and decision-makers.

The full report is formally presented at Forest Day 6 on 2 December during the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) meeting in Doha, Qatar (26 November-7 December, 2012).

The report, the policy brief and a press release – New Study Suggests Global Pacts Like REDD Ignore Primary Causes of Destruction of Forests – are available for download.

Report and Policy Brief:

Press Release:

For more information about the Expert Panel on Biodiversity, Forest Management and REDD+, please visit:

Forest and society: some thoughts on a possible interdisciplinary approach in IUFRO

Bikash Rath
Coordinator, IUFRO Working Party on Community Forestry (9.05.06)

PDF of full paper for download


Forests are the major source of our ecosystem services that the society avails for its sustenance and healthy growth. Forestry thus has continued to have a very complex and large social dimension with a number of interfaces between forest and society. These interfaces range from exploitation to protection & conservation. They form the key to an interdisciplinary approach between forestry sciences and social sciences, and create the potential for a mutual collaboration between the two.

Now, the question is: Do we really need such an interdisciplinary approach? How about forestry totally independent of social science, and vice versa?

The fact is that social scientists/activists/organizations pioneered in discovering many misdeeds and errors which the foresters either ignored or were unaware of, and this provided a scope for developing holistic management models for effective conservation of forest & wildlife.

Going for an interdisciplinary approach doesn’t disturb the exclusive identity of a stream/subject, rather it liberalizes it in a constructive manner creating scope for a more comprehensive and holistic understanding as well as expression. It’s like two or more nations sharing their boundaries (they obviously do not and cannot share all their boundaries with each other). And the challenges in the present world critically need an interdisciplinary approach for facing them in an effective and holistic way.

RCDC took a significant initiative towards making such interface possible in forest management. In the training-cum-workshop organized in 2010 it invited villagers practicing community forestry, and also some forestry experts to discuss silviculture in community forestry. And the interaction came out with a very interesting conclusion that silviculture needs to be participatory so as to avoid the possible ill effects (communities reported how the Departmental silviculture led to clearing of some of the valuable NTFP species and also to the invasion of weeds). It also gave a message to the community that silviculture doesn’t mean only thinning & cleaning, but it considers a lot of other elements and activities for overall forest development. Thus, silviculture itself can serve as an interface between foresters and communities, and participatory silviculture becomes an interdisciplinary approach.

One can obviously identify more interface points. In fact, few of the IUFRO units already recognize that their approach is and should be interdisciplinary. Further, limitations of the existing scope do not mean that we can’t have more/new points of interface in future, with changing dynamics.

Keeping ourselves mystified with our own identity followed by an attitude to not open to suggestions from other areas are our biggest barriers in promoting such an approach; so demystification must be a key word to remove such a barrier. The sub-division/WP coordinators have to identify the possible interface points first and the division coordinators have to ensure an attitude for demystification and liberalization. The IUFRO Secretariat can closely monitor the track.


The author works for Regional Centre for Development Centre (RCDC), a IUFRO member from India, in the capacity of Sr. Programme Manager; and the above article has been written in response to the debate on interdisciplinary approach in the IUFRO Division 9 conference recently held at Sarajevo from 9-11 May, 2012.

2 New Volumes of the IUFRO World Series

2 volumes of IUFRO’s World Series have just been newly published. The IUFRO World Series was designed to give IUFRO officeholders a possibility to make their expertise known to a larger public. In most cases, reports resulting from IUFRO meetings, IUFRO Task Force reports or results from the work of IUFRO Special Projects and Programmes are published in this series. The main focus is on original research devoted to specific themes either in the form of collected articles or as single extensive contributions.


Volume 26: Traditional Forest Related Knowledge, Biodiversity Conservation and Sustainable Forest Management in Eastern Europe, Northern and Central Asia.
Andrey Laletin, John A. Parrotta, Ilya Domashov (editors). Vienna, 2011 – 78 p.

Forests and woodlands that are the traditional homes of local communities in Eastern Europe, Northern and Central Asia have historically been managed by these communities themselves, or more recently in collaboration with government agencies. Traditional forest-related knowledge (TFRK) and innovative forest management practices, developed over centuries, have contributed significantly to the natural and cultural heritage of the region, and sustained production of multiple goods and services that enhance livelihood security and quality of life for people. The conference provided a platform for sharing of information and exchanging experiences among scientists, the holders and users of traditional knowledge, non-governmental organizations, forest managers and other relevant stakeholders related to forest biodiversity and traditional forest-related knowledge. The conference highlighted the importance of traditional knowledge towards achieving the Millennium Development Goals, the objectives of the Rio Conventions, and its contributions to sustainable forest management.

For more information visit:


Volume 29:  Asia and the Pacific Symposium – Vulnerability Assessments to Natural and Anthropogenic Hazards
Editors: Antonio M. Daño, Karen Rae M. Fortus, Sim Heok-Choh. Kuala Lumpur, 2011 – 95 p.

In December 2010, a symposium was held in Manila, the Philippines, to lo0k at the vulnerability of ecosystems to natural and anthropogenic hazards and how best to assess it. The main objective of the symposium was to enhance the capability and capacity of participants in conducting vulnerability assessment of various ecosystems. It served as a venue for exchange of knowledge and initiatives in vulnerability assessment. The symposium was also expected to come up with output materials that will be useful in preparing appropriate programmes/projects to deal with the inherent biophysical and socioinstitutional characteristics of ecosystems and the stressors of the resources including the impacts of climate change.

Learn more about this publication at

IUFRO Forest Governance Fact Sheet

PDF document for download


The current set of international forest governance arrangements is best seen as a complex hybrid mix of international law, soft law, and non-governmental performance-based measures such as international certification schemes and industry codes of conduct. A diverse array of organizations and interest groups, all with different mandates, create the institutional environment for forest policy and governance.  All of these actors are dedicated to supporting the different functions of forests, developing and implementing measures designed to protect the forest benefits, and interacting – often in a competitive manner – with each other for political and financial support at different levels. There are an increasing number of governance challenges, such as the demand for bioenergy and legally harvested and produced timber (e.g. EU Timber Regulation on banning illegal timber products from the EU market, to be applied in early 2013). There is clear evidence from research that complex forest problems require synergistic approaches involving a wide range of policy instruments.

Innovative Approaches

There are two concepts that could guide efforts towards a more effective international forest governance: problem focused policy learning is enabled by including from the start a broad group of stakeholders and institutions inside and outside of the forest sector and by gathering practical advice, practitioners’ knowledge, insights and the best available research. In addition, impacts between various policies and policy levels need to be better understood. Improved institutional intersection, in which different interventions perform specific functions, might lead to adaptive capacities in ways a single institution could not. In order to improve the understanding and practical application of these two concepts, the International Union of Forest Research Organizations (IUFRO) is currently establishing a new Task Force on International Forest Governance to address institutional intersection and policy learning.

A Contribution to Forest Europe

Policy learning and institutional intersection may support and guide the implementation of commitments declared in the ‘Oslo Ministerial Decision: European Forests 2020′, such as the European Ministers’ decision: (i) to develop and update policies and tools for sustainable forest management, including by facilitating open and flexible policy dialogue; (ii) to monitor, assess and facilitate implementation of commitments on sustainable forest management in all European countries and in the region; and (iii) to facilitate sharing of experiences across countries, sectors and stakeholders on all aspects of sustainable forest management and other forest related issues (see articles 21a-c).


The state of play of European forest governance and challenges

  • European regional agreements with regard to governance include the Oslo Ministerial Mandate for Negotiating a Legally Binding Agreement on Forests in Europe, and the EU FLEGT (Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade) Action Plan, setting the goal of combating illegal harvesting and illegal timber trade in environment, trade and development cooperation policies.
  • With these developments, domestic challenges arise. There is fragmentation of institutions and authority in addressing key goals. For example, good forest governance was originally seen as a development issue, but has become a trade issue also. The EU and Member States are facing the challenge to link the development agencies with the trade agencies and to find synergistic ways how to work together, that do not violate the legal responsibilities of either.
  • As Europe with FLEGT is commending good governance elsewhere in such a coherent and concerned way, the EU and Member States are facing the challenge to also demonstrate good forest governance within the region in order to not lose legitimacy and credibility at international level.

What research can do

  • Defining and implementing interaction between trade, development and natural resource policies is not as simple as it might seem. Researchers can uncover the pathways through which synergies could be facilitated by new institutional arrangements and new policy approaches. For example, incentives and signals from FLEGT could encourage supply chain tracking, often through the use of certification bodies, which then help to reinforce good forest governance in developing countries.
  • Researchers have an ability to identify: what are the most synergistic pathways for interactions between the different actors and entities? And what does this mean for developing strategic directions and decisions in order to guide actors with often conflicting mandates and diverse institutional cultures? What are the obstacles for the formulation and implementation of policies and institutions fostering ‘good’ governance principles?

Policy learning

  • Policy learning is the attempt to adjust the goals or techniques of policy in response to past experience and new information. In the complex context of European forest policy, policy learning can only begin when stakeholders, practitioners, government agencies, civil society organizations, and scientists create, through deliberation, a joint understanding of the context and nature of forest problems from a wide variety of perspectives.  The success of this learning process depends upon having the best available information about policy options as informed by research, practice, and the experience of civil society.
  • Policy learning that occurs in a deliberative process will expose legitimate differences over goals and objectives that divide stakeholders but, by creating a common understanding of  ‘how things work’, policy learning also can reveal win-win solutions. For example, at the same time that participants learn about the viability of one or more efforts – such as FLEGT, certification and management plans etc. – they learn about the challenges confronting other stakeholders.

Institutional intersection

  • The most important level of learning about potential solutions to public problems is at the level of intersection of institutions. It simply is no longer the case that a single intervention sits alone by itself and has no impact anywhere else. In fact any international negotiation or deliberation only has an impact when it actually interacts with something else, e.g. with domestic legislation or certification or national forest programmes.
  • There is a role for research simultaneously involving practitioners and civil society to analyse the different interactions among government and market mechanisms across global, national and local scales that might produce innovative, effective and enduring results.
  • For example, the supply chain tracking in the framework of the FLEGT process involves public and private actors at different levels – sub-nationally, nationally and internationally – and therefore could lead to broad global coalition for good forest governance in a way a single intervention, such as private certification schemes can not achieve.
  • The institutional intersection approach is now gaining growing acceptance as illustrated by the UN Rio 2012 summit’s focus on the two themes: ‘green economy’ and ‘institutional framework for sustainable development’.

What can Forest Europe do?

  • Forest Europe can play a key role in promoting policy learning and institutional intersection by sharing a learning platform involving multiple stakeholders, informed by the best available information about policy options.
  • It can facilitate stakeholder and civil society participation at domestic level by creating forums for deliberation with scientists, policy makers, and forest managers at local, sub-national and national levels. For example, the national forest programme process could be a national-level learning forum.
  • It can support engagement of policy makers in scientific meetings focused on governance and policy, such as the IUFRO All-Division 9 ‘Forest Policy and Economics’ Conference in Sarajevo in May 2012.
  • It can support policy-research networks, like the FOPER network in Southeast Europe, that are actively researching public problems identified through stakeholder processes with the purpose of contributing to policy makers, practitioners and civil society as well as to the research community.
  • And it can actively promote the role of Forest Europe in the global discussion on forest governance by assuming a leadership role in creating the institutional capacity for policy learning and collaborative research necessary to provide adaptive governance capacity for the future.


Embracing complexity: Meeting the challenges of international forest governance. A global assessment report. This report was prepared in the frame of the Global Forest Expert Panels (GFEP), an initiative established within the framework of the Collaborative Partnership on Forests (CPF). The report was led and coordinated by IUFRO. Visit:

The International Union of Forest Research Organizations (IUFRO) is the only world-wide organization devoted to forest research and related sciences. Its members are research institutions, universities, and individual scientists as well as decision-making authorities and other stakeholders with a focus on forests and trees. Visit:

PDF document for download